Seoul to Busan

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Written by Melissa Jung, Foster undergraduate

Next to Seoul, Busan is the second most well known city in Korea. I made the trip south with some friends to visit for a weekend. I was amazed at how beautiful it was there! Since we only had two days, we did all that we could in the short amount of time we had. We visited a small village in Busan that was famous for its colorful wall art throughout the alleys…and the view was beautiful!

Busan was just a gorgeous city. The walkways were lined with bright, golden trees where my friends and I probably ended up taking a hundred pictures. In Seoul, you can’t see the ocean, so it was breath taking when I saw the sea. We just sat there for an hour admiring the view and reflecting on how amazing our trip to Busan had been.




Weekend Backpacking in Europe

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Danny Hsiao, Foster undergraduate

I wasn’t thinking about traveling too much when I first arrived in Pamplona until I met a few friends who are really big on travelling. After I got to know them and talked to them more, I realized that it might be a good opportunity for me to travel at least some part of Europe. I am originally from Taiwan and study in Seattle, which are both really far from Europe. So I figured that this would be the best time for me to travel in Europe with a lowest cost because I don’t have any work obligation except some school work and I can design my own schedule to meet my travel needs. That’s how I came up with the idea of weekend backpacker.

I ended up having a three and a half day weekend for every week, which is perfect for my weekend travel plan. So about the second week of school, a few friends and I started traveling during the weekend. We first went to Switzerland, because the air ticket was really cheap at that time, then southern Spain, the UK, central Spain, Portugal, some other parts of Spain, and even North Africa—a territory of Spain that we figure would be cool to tell other people about having been there in Africa. The way we travel wasn’t very luxurious as we had to control the cost in order to be able to afford the next trip. To do so, we rode the cheapest transportation, slept in the creepiest hostels, and walked, with a backpack of all the travel essentials, for miles and miles, to save cost and see more, which were very interesting travel memories! We have slept in the cold, hard airport floor with a sleeping bag; we have been lost in the valley of the Alps in Switzerland to try to find the hotel we book; we had encounter numerous pickpockets, thieves, and even burglars on the way; we had seen a pregnant mother with two babies crying for help with translation. Each of the incidents provided opportunity for us to learn from the real world and strengthen our minds to deal with futures difficulties.

Besides those, we have also seen beautiful things. We have seen the last sunset of Europe in Portugal with some hot fresh Portuguese egg tarts; we have seen the snowy Matterhorn and heard the sound a glacier makes; we have seen the majestic Arabic palace called the La Alhambra where the Spanish queen started the plan to reunite the Catholic Spain; we have also seen the mind-purifying trumpet salute in London tower to the soldiers who died when fighting for the British Queen. These are some unforgettable memories!


On Matterhorn, Zermat, Switzerland.



The Arabic palace, La Alhambra.

China Checklist

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Here’s Five Things That I was able to do:

1. Got a Bike (Early September)

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my bicycle. However, I wasn’t able to pay the full respects that its due. This is my way of amending that. 



I’m borrowing the bicycle from distant relatives here in Beijing, which is what it looks like  too. The relatives live near the Beijing Zoo, so I was able to ride from around there back to school. Despite all the people and cars, I enjoyed the opportunity to ride a bike again. Walking around everywhere was getting a little old. And it was fun to see some of the city.

Most people’s first reaction to my bike is usually laughter—though I don’t find it all that funny. I think people must be under the impression that I actually bought the thing, which in that case would be that I’ve been swindled out of my mind. Really, if this wasn’t a family artifact, then I’d have to get paid to ride it. But hey, it looks pretty nice. Picture me riding.

2. Olympic Stadium (Early October)

I vividly remember watching the 2008 Olympics and really like the Olympics in general, so dropping by here really was a no-brainer. We didn’t actually go in the stadium*, so I wasn’t able to do my Usain Bolt impression. Maybe that’s for the better


*Decided against it cause of money and time

3. They Could Be Royals (Early October)

I was also able to visit the Summer Palace, which ended up being one of my favorite places. Unfortunately, I forgot to put in the memory into my camera when I left. That meant that my phone was left up to the duty of pictures. To my surprise, it was more than up to the task. The views inside really were spectacular.




4. Biked Across the City (Mid October)

I got the crazy thought that cycling across Beijing with the school’s cycling club would be a good idea. So we left at 9:00 pm and I got back to my room at around 2:00am. The last 10 kilometers was the worst part because cause there were no sights to left to see and I wanted to sleep. Despite this and the pollution,I thought the experience was a good one. It was fun being able to see this city at night, including Tienanmen Square andthe lights at 后海. And hey, I got some exercise in as well. The 50 kilometer trip was well worth it.

5. APEC Holiday

Thanks to the APEC Conference that was being held, all the students in Beijing got an extra five days off at the beginning of November. I spent that time at 张家界 with some classmates. 张家界 is said to be the inspiration behind the film Avatar. I’ve never watched the film, so I’ll let you be the judge of that.


Second Chances

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Yup, I gave it another try. After I tried 臭豆腐 (stinky tofu) in Taiwan a few years ago, I swore that I would never try it again. It tasted just like how it smelled and I honestly despised the taste. It looks as if my resolve has weakened over time. My food philosophy has evolved over time. Local foods and fermented foods are both of greater interest to me.  臭豆腐 fit into both of these categories, so when I was in 长沙, I decided to go for this local specialty*.


*Hard to see in the picture, but this type of 臭豆腐 came in a soup. It is made differently than the Taiwanese kind. It smells about the same though.

One of my friends gave his assessment and I think it sums it up pretty well: “It just tastes like tofu”. I’d agree that it really just tasted like tofu, green onions, and chili peppers. It’s the after-taste that’s special; lingers in the mouth for quite a while, which was certainly not a plus for me. But 臭豆腐 has now moved into a zone closing to acceptance. I’m still not fond of it, but this polarizing Chinese snack could probably warrant a few more tries from me.

Climate Challenges in China

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Written by Eric Gong, Foster undergraduate

Beijing’s air can get really dirty, and when it does, it stays dirty for days at a time. The pollution puts a hazy tone on everything. It really is no fun when it happens. It’s too hazardous to go running. People have to wear masks*. The smog clouds the sun. Everything is gray.


*Without one, some people start coughing. It’s never been that severe for me. But for me, my throat feels really dry and I start to feel my lungs

For reference, Seattle’s Air Quality Index is a 40 on a bad day. Beijing on a good day is around 100. However, there are the very best days, which are around 40. But then the winds blow the smog away. And everything changes.  Beijing is better when the skies blue. But the gray ones make us appreciate the wind.




Making International Friends

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Written by Nancy Shao, Foster undergraduate

One of the best decisions I made in Korea was signing up for the intensive Korean language classes. Even though it was two hours every day Monday to Friday, I learned a lot of Korean and really bonded with my amazing classmates. We had people from the Netherlands, England, Phillipines, China, Canada and America all in that one classroom. It was the first time I was in such a diverse situation. We all became really close friends and it makes me sad to think we will probably never all be gathered in the same place again.


Our teacher was really nice too even though she didn’t speak much English, we would communicate with bits of Korean, English and Charades. By the end of level 1, we learned how to order food, tell time, haggle and read. Reading is really important I realized. You just feel so insecure when you’re in a country where you are illiterate. You don’t know where you are if you can’t read road signs and it’s hard to find restaurants and even the bathroom. Life got a lot better in Korea after I learned how to read. It was like the world finally started making sense. Karaoke was definitely a lot easier. I also realized I lived next to a lot of fried chicken and beer places.


Dressing the Part

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Written by Nancy Shao, Foster undergraduate

Some friends and I went to a tiny palace in Insadong called “Unhyeongong”. The reason we went to this one instead of the larger and more famous Gyeongbokgong was because there was no entrance fee for this one and our primary goal was to take Hanbok pictures! A must do for every foreigner traveling to Korea because we are all curious to see how we look as a citizen in the Joseon dynasty. I should’ve worn a shirt without a collar though because we had to wear the hanbok over our normal clothes and my collar showed so I had to tuck it in. My friend Rebecca had to wear a child size one because all of the other ones were too big for her. You can tell because it had a velcro closing instead of the normal ribbon you tie in the front. We did get some nice pictures and the weather was quite nice as well. 



Spa Day in Seoul

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Written by Nancy Shao, Foster undergraduate

A Korean friend took us to one of the biggest jjimjilbangs in Seoul “Dragon Hill Spa” or “Yongsan Spa”. The big sign says students who took the Korean college entrance exam can get in for free. It makes me wonder if we ever got any perks for completing the SAT. Well we probably don’t have it as hard as they do so they deserve a relaxing day in one of the best spas in Seoul! When we first entered, we were met with pictures of famous Korean celebrities that have been to this jimjjilbang. Among them were “Girl’s Generation” and the cast of the hit variety show “Running Man”.



The jjimjillbang is really big and has an arcade, spa, movie theater, PC room and a restaurant. We ate dinner in the restaurant and our Korean friends taught us how to make “Sheep Hair” by rolling up the towels. I’ve only seen this done in the dramas but it was on my “to-do” list. I proudly wore my sheep hair around the spa.


Fun in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

After two days in Phuket, it was time to go “Phi Phi!” We almost didn’t make it – we woke up late for our taxi ride to the ferry terminal! In the end, we still got there early, and we soon found out that ferries don’t leave on time here. At least we got to enjoy the view, wind in our faces, and the sunshine during the ferry ride. Even though Ko Phi Phi is supposed to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, daytime at the beach is amazing and unreal. For the rest of the day, my friends and I relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the ultra-clear water. I had to take two midterms in about one week, so I unfortunately had to (try to) read my finance textbook. But hey – at least I got a nice view, along with a nice tan!


When the sun goes down, Ko Phi Phi becomes a whole new beast. A big, fiery beast. Many Thai beaches, especially those on Phi Phi, are known for their nightly fire shows. During such shows, performers twirl batons, pois, and other objects set on fire. Performers even work together to pull off a variety of stunts, like human pyramids and walking on tightropes. It’s a crazy sight and it’s even crazier knowing that this happens every. single. night.


What also happens every night is the opportunity for spectators to become participants. We didn’t get to toss around fire batons, but we did get to participate in fire jumprope, fire limbo, and jump through a hoop of fire. Yes, this is real, and yes, countless people actually do it. I even saw a child jump through the hoop of fire! I tried the fire limbo and hoop because they involved stationary objects. I didn’t try the jumprope, as I was afraid of seriously burning myself. It all actually seemed fairly safe – in any case, the ocean is a short run away! At one point, a woman tried to jump out of the spinning jumprope and the rope ended up hitting her head and then pretty much wrapped around her stomach. My friends and I feared that she would catch on fire, but she seemed surprisingly unscathed after finally escaping! (The same couldn’t be said about her pride.)

On our last day, we hiked to Pee Pee Viewpoint to watch the sunrise. No more than a 30-minute hike up stairs and a hill, the view was much better than the area’s name may suggest. We had to get on a ferry back to Phuket in less than two hours, so this was a great way to end our trip to Ko Phi Phi.


Motorbiking in Taiwan

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

On March 27th, a friend and I took a red-eye flight to Taipei, Taiwan. Arriving before 6 am, I quickly realized that we hadn’t done our research regarding the need for a visa. Being the (sometimes) worrywart that I am, I worried that we would end up on the next flight back to Singapore. It turns out that as American citizens, a visa isn’t needed! I liked Taiwan already!

We took a bus to Taipei (the airport is actually an hour away), ending up at the train station. After two hours on the train (playing “2048”), we were picked up from the Toroko station. We checked into Toroko Lodge, which I highly recommend! Relaxing for some time, we then went to rent scooters (gas-powered, not Razor scooters). This is when the adventure really started to take off…

Having never ridden a scooter before, I seriously thought my butt would scoot right off the scooter and onto the road. I almost ran over the guy who let us rent scooters in the first place… Equating riding a scooter with riding a bike, I zoomed onto the road hoping that it would become easier to balance. Well, what do you know… it worked! My friend and I quickly got the hang of our scooters and were well on our way to Toroko National Park.

There is NOTHING like driving through the park’s windy roads, with the wind in my face and a vast gorge as the backdrop. We sped through countless tunnels carved out of the mountainside, stopping every now and then to take some photos. At one point, we found an abandoned tunnel that reminded me of the one found in the film, “Spirited Away.” I sure was blown away, or should I say “spirited away,” by the experience! If there is one thing you take away from reading this blog post, it’s this: if you ever go to Taiwan, you HAVE to ride scooters in Toroko!